Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Christmas Goose

After what - for us - was a culinary adventure for Thanksgiving with our heritage turkey, Will determined that I would cook a goose for Christmas. I think this came up around day 4 of eating leftover turkey. So together we started researching goose, where to buy and how to cook. There were a lot of horror stories out there, such as oven's catching on fire due to all the fat in the goose, and dry, tough meat. But there were a lot of enraptured raves about a succulent meal and the myriad uses for the rendered goose fat, namely - heavenly potatoes.

So, rather than write a suspense novel here, I'm going to lead with my punch line: the goose was a big hit. Will and I served it just to us and my parents, but we are our most serious critics, so I feel our collective opinions are a reasonable assessment of succes. We found the meat to be tender, moist, and flavorful, not at all gamey, nor fatty. I read (source long-ago lost to the cybersphere, so legitimacy is questionable, but my experience in this case makes me think its worthy of spreading as a rumor even if only half-truth) that goose meat is actually leaner than turkey, the fat which is subcuteaneous all cooks out during roasting, and the meat itself is left juicy but lean. The meat is all dark, and we really only had 6 reasonable-sized servings from a 9.5 pound goose, so it was expensive, and certainly a lot of work for the quantity, but well-worth it for a special and unique holiday celebration.

The traditional French preparation is to roast with a chestnut and prune stuffing. I used three main sources as my recipe references in the couple weeks leading up to the actual preparation of this meal, but I read each so many times, and used elements from all three, including dabbles from other sources, that I can't recommend any of these as is, but if you want to try a similar process, these are certainly good places to gather background. 1. Mastering the Art of French Cooking, but Julia Child (the chapter on Poultry has a whole section on l'oie goose) 2. Bon Appetit's Roast Goose with Chestnuts, Prunes, and Armagnac 3. Fine Cooking magazine's Roasted Goose with Brandied Prune Stuffing and Red Wine Gravy.

I ultimately did end up making a gravy, but not to serve with the meal; it was just as way not to waste all the tasty-looking pan drippings. Gravy to me is the biggest buzz-kill of taking a delicious meal out of the oven and being ready to set down at the table with guests. So I planned my menu gravy-free, and the richness of the meat plus the abundent flavors of the sides, made me quite confident in my decision.

Many cooking methods were suggested; because I wasn't going to have the extra moist mouth-feel contribution from gravy, I wanted to make sure my goose stayed juicy. So I decided to roast the bird in a covered roasting pan. I created a dressing that was savory and tangy, with the tender toothsome nuttiness of chestnuts and the tangy chewiness of port-soaked prunes. My mom chose a Tom Douglas recipe for sauteed kale with crispy-fried garbanzo beans, and a crunchy romaine salad with green apples and glazed pecans.

Below are the steps and the timeline I followed to prepare the goose and the dressing, starting two days ahead to serve on Friday evening.

Wednesday evening: Roast chestnuts, peel, and refrigerate. (Or just buy a jar.)

The scored and roasted chestnuts.
The peeled, roasted chestnuts.
Thursday morning: trim fat, rinse, and blanch for one minute. Pat dry, and refrigerate uncovered.

This shows the large pouches of fat just inside the cavity.
On the right side, I have already removed it, on the left
side, you can see how there is still the huge section of flesh-
colored mass inside the cavity. This pulls out very easily, then I
cut it into chunks and simmered in a saucepan.
  Make stock, with neck, heart, and kidney chopped up, plus some onion wedges, celery (except I didn't have any so I used a hunk of the core of purple cabbage), a few whole cloves and peppercorns, and a bay leaf, plus enough water to cover. Simmer 2 hours.

Render fat by boiling, covered, with 1 cup of water for 20 minutes, then simmering until all water has evaporated. (I had it on the stove for about 90 minutes, and then I had to go to work, and it still seemed to be sputtering - a sign that there was still water evaporating - so I put it in the fridge. When I got home, the liquid and fat had separated, so it was easy to pour off the water. Then I just heated the fat until it was liquid again so I could strain it.
The fat before rendering.

Cut up bread loaves (1 1/2 pounds) into bite-sized squares and leave out to dry. I used a rosemary olive oil loaf, which has a sourdough-type of base.

Thursday evening: Toast bread cubes in the oven to dry, and then store covered. Prepare remaining dressing by sauteeing 1 large onion, diced, 3 ribs celery, diced, and 5-6 medium mushrooms, diced, in 1 stick of butter until softened. Part way through cooking, stir in some herbs of choice; thyme is the classic, but by this point in the season, it is becoming ubiquitous, so I went with tarragon; it works well with rosemary (in the bread), but moreover, it reminds me of France, and the whole goose with chestnuts and prunes is also very French. Stir in reserved chestnuts.
Soak prunes in wine, port, prune juice, or your liquid of choice.

Friday afternoon: Mix about 2 cups of the stock with 2 beaten eggs, and toss with dressing vegetables, drained prunes, then toss in bread cubes to lightly coat. Cover and keep chilled until ready to bake (at 350 for 20-25 minutes, then uncover for 10-15 minutes).
Remove goose from fridge, and baste with goose stock and prune soaking liquid. Bring to room temperature, then roast at 325, basteing periodically.

Monday, December 20, 2010

German Inspiration

Last week, I was on vacation with my aunt, staying in a hotel with cable. I love to watch the Food Network as a special treat, because we don't have cable tv at home. A month or so ago, I'd bought some purple cabbage, and played around with it in a saute that was edible, but certainly not a favorite. Then, after I made the salmon with fennel and beets over the summer, fennel has been floating in the back of my mind as an ingredient I'd like to use more of. So when I saw this recipe being demonstrated, I knew I wanted to try it. This is a boring post, because I have no photos, but this nevertheless was attractive when plated.
In my first trip to the grocery store when I got home, I picked up a head of purple cabbage, a granny smith apple, and made sure I had some fresh fennel seed. It sat in the fridge for a couple of days while I decided on good accompaniments, then one day when I knew it was time, but had been out running errands after work, and didn't have anything defrosted from the freezer, I picked up some fresh bratwurst. The seared brown of the sausages and the deep amythest of the cabbage need another complement on the plate, so I decided on some pureed parsnips. Sometimes a challenge to make attractive, with the strong colors I already had in the menu, the creamy parsnips were just right. I cut them into chunks, then covered with leftover turkey stock to cover, and they simmered to tender in just 15 minutes. I poured of some of the cooking broth, and then pureed with the immersion blender. A heap of parsnip (didn't need any other seasonings due to the flavor of the stock) on the plate, topped with the sausage, with a mound of cabbage alongside was a hearty, simple, and tummy-filling meal great for weeknights.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Red Curry Squash Soup

Another squash soup? Yep. I love this stuff. And there are so many ways to flavor it and turn it into a completely different dish. This time I made a red-pepper-Thai-curry sauce that I swirled into the soup for both a stunning garnish and a totally different continent of taste.

1 two-pound butternut squash
4 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1 carrot
1/2 onion
1/2 jalapeno
3 cups broth (I used leftover turkey stock from Thanksgiving)

3 pieces (1 1/2 peppers) jarred, roasted red peppers
1-2 teaspoons Thai red curry paste
1 tablespoon heavy or sour cream
2 cloves garlic

If you have a good immersion blender like we do, you don't have to worry too much about how you chop any of these ingredients. If you don't have a good blender, you might want to do a better job of chopping.

Slice the squash in half, and brush cut side as well as the carrot (peeled) with enough oil to lightly coat. Roast at 375 degrees for 45-60 minutes, until easily pierced with a skewer through the thickest part.

Meanwhile, chop onions and jalepeno. Saute in large stockpot over medium heat in remaining oil, until tender, about 10 minutes. Add broth or stock and salt to taste.

Meanwhile, puree sauce ingredients and heat in a small saucepan.

When squash is done, scape flesh from skin, and add along with carrot to stockpot. Puree with immersion blender. Ladel into bowls, and top with a swirl of red pepper sauce.

Next time I do this, I am going to make a second garnish of cilantro chutney.
Grind in food processor:
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (pepitas)

1/3 cup coconut milk
2 jalapeno chilis (or green chilis to taste)
2 cups cilantro

Friday, December 3, 2010

Florentine Frittata

After hours spent carving turkey, making stock, and picking the carcass, I had mounds and mounds of shredded meat - plenty for soup, pot pie, freezer, and still something else. I admit I was getting mightily sick of this turkey, so I chose something quick and easy that wouldn't over-expose me to more poultry prep-time: eggs are almost always the perfect base for ingredients that need to be used up without much fuss.

9-inch deep-dish pie plate, buttered
1 small baking potato, thinly sliced cross-wise into evenly thick slices
2-3 teaspoons broth
1 tablespoon olive oil
1-2 cups chopped spinach
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 mushrooms, chopped
minced hot pepper of choice (I used 1/2 jalepeno)
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
kosher salt to taste
2 cups shredded, diced turkey meat
5 eggs
1/4 cup milk or cream

Preheat oven to 350. Spread the potato slices evenly in the bottom of the pan and up the sides to make a "crust." Brush or drizzle the broth over. Saute the spinach, mushrooms, and garlic in olive oil until soft. Stir in salt, hot pepper, and nutmeg. Remove from heat. Stir in turkey.
Whisk together eggs and milk. Stir in vegetables and pour gently into pie pan to not disturb potatoes.
Bake 35-45 minutes, until set.  Slice and serve.

This is infinitely variable for whatever ingredients you like or have on hand. Try sauteeing onions, zucchini, bell peppers, olives, green beans, asparagus, tomatoes. Mix in thyme, oregano, basil, cilantro, pasley, sage, or dill. Of course, I was looking for ways to use up thanksgiving turkey, but you can make it entirely vegetarian, or replace with any other leftover meat. And cheese would be delicious; sprinkle with parmesan during the last minutes of baking, stir in shredded swiss or jack cheese before baking, or crumbled feta or blue cheese. You can also scale with more eggs and even more pie plates. If you add more ingredients, that will affect baking time.